While the Army football team is still something of a work in progress (albeit a work in progress with a much higher ceiling this fall) there is another ball carrying contact sport in which the Black Knights are already excelling. The Army rugby team will take to the pitch this weekend in Philadelphia before a national television audience in a tournament that will determine the Collegiate Rugby Sevens National Champions.
Understandably rugby can be a little confusing, not least because there are multiple versions of the sport played at Army each year. The tournament this weekend will be in the sevens version of the game. This is the faster, more free flowing concept that will be featured at the Olympics this summer in Rio. Sevens rugby is a test of endurance, skill and toughness, with each game having seven minute halves, with seven players on each team, on a full sized field. When you consider that in the other version of the game it is played 15 on 15, then this sport would be like playing 5-on-5 football at Michie Stadium.
Army has always had a solid rugby team, but the stunning growth of the game in the country over the last ten or so years has seen the Black Knights squad rise to another level. The sport has moved to the full varsity level at the academy and that extra financial support has paid off immediately. Army finished the fall 15’s season with a top ten ranking and the Black Knights sevens squad is already the Patriot League Champions this spring.
The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championships this weekend will be an interesting test of just how good this Army rugby team is. While the sport is growing on the east coast, the collegiate powers have traditionally been on the other side of the country with defending champions California and the ever dangerous BYU being two of the biggest threats to Army winning the title.
The CRC trophy is named after Army legend and Heisman Trophy winner Pete Dawkins who will be in attendance this weekend. Dawkins played rugby in England while at Oxford and it would only be fitting if the Black Knights stepped up to be handed his trophy at the conclusion of play this weekend.